When I started writing, I wanted one thing: to sell a story. I did it, and I liked it, and so my thoughts turned to something else: selling more stories. I did that, too, and I liked it. And in the process of selling more stories, I met people, and became involved in their lives, even if only in an editor-supplicant relationship. I attended convetions, and writer centres, and began email conversations, and joined mailing lists, and posted on LJs, and got into arguments, and became a public figure, and was asked to help organise things, and became distracted, and received hate mail, and had demands made on me and my friendship that I had not welcomed, and demands that I welcomed, and became further distracted, and gossiped, and was gossiped about, and read flists, and wondered where the time was going, and dealt with bruised egos, and dealt with my own bruised ego, and placated people, and inflamed others, and was asked to help organise other things, and made appearances, and somewhere along the line...
I'm not enjoying this anymore.
I have made some wonderful friendships in the last 4 and a bit years. I'm lucky to know, and like, and hopefully be liked in turn, by such people as Stephen Dedman, Dave Luckett, Grant Watson, Kate Eltham, Rob Hoge, Geoffrey Maloney, Russell Farr... there's a long list.
But somewhere along the line, this field that I came into because I loved reading it and because it was fun, has stopped being that way.
When I started, it was fun to write, and it was more fun to sell, and it was even funnererest to see my name in print. Now I've moved so far from what I enjoyed that I have seriously entertained giving the whole thing away in the last couple of weeks. It would not be a million miles from the truth to say that it is the presence of Conflux on my personal calendar that has stopped me from doing so.
However, things will be changing, come dawn next Wednesday, when I return to the world.
The LJs are gone. The volunteering, likewise. The mailing lists: gone. Getting involved: gone. If I am your friend, don't worry: I'm not going that far. But if you've enjoyed seeing me somewhere on the net being all argumentative and opinionated, better, if you've enjoyed trying to find my knees so you can take a cut at them: gone. If you've got this fabulous project that just has to have my name attached to it or you will die: thank you. I appreciate your faith in me and my name, and should it be a real project, with a publisher on board and a certified release date and/or a professional relationship involved, then I am a writer and we will do business, but I am no longer in the business of faith, so you'll have to provide me with a little more than sweet smells and promises.
What was fun, when I began, was writing, and selling, and seeing my name in print. And it is that to which I shall be returning.
TWO DEFINITIONS OF FAMILY
Had two social occasions over the weekend, which provided a perfect reminder of the familial world in which I wander.
Saturday night we attended a party to celebrate PRK and Tori on their engagement. When I wasn't busy looking after Connor, I found time to relax and enjoy the company of some of the closest members of my self-appointed village. I even managed to provide entertainment for Tori, Calli & Luscious when PRK and I shared a kiss, just for them :) Dinner and a show...
Whether I enjoy their company at times or not (and vice versa), these are the people with whom I choose to surround myself. It's an important point. I don't open up well, and most people I know see the performer rather than the man underneath. It's a neat way to give the illusion of familiarity without having to risk anything. Often I risk something, and bear the scars later. But John & Sarah, Ju, Sheldon, PRK & Tori, the Sunday Night Crew as a whole... nah. It may be rough on them sometimes, when I'm dealing with black dogs, or generally just being the shit I can be, but on Saturday night I was relaxed enough to remember that you choose a village for very good reasons, and one of those reasons is that these are the people with whom you want to share something of yourself.
And these are the people who reward you without effort, when you can wander at will through a house, and turn a corner to find this:
A daughter, a friend, a rug is cut
When friends enjoy what you bring in to the world, not because they have to but because they choose to, you're doing all right.
On Sunday we travelled to Whiteman Park to meet up with my relatives for a picnic lunch. My Aunt and Uncle were over from Nottingham and Dad had organised for us to spend some time together before they flew back. I've met Uncle David and Aunty Celia maybe three times since I came out here in 1975. They're nice people, but on the ladder of familiarity, 3 times in 30 years ain't a big relationship.
However, something that has become apparent to me in recent days is that your definition of family can be as flexible as you choose it to be. Two nice people who I barely know can be family because my father, who has known his sister all his life (duh) tells me so. And I will happily accept it, because it is a paradigm we choose to share, and because it results in pleasant afternoons in the park with good conversation and a game of kick to kick.
And who am I to argue, when both my Bonus Sons, who I have known for less than 4 years but with whom I have a relationship that bodes no steps, or halves, or complications, insist their Uncle and Pop (and as far as they are concerned, my brother and my father are Uncle and Pop: no steps, or halves, or complications) get out on the grass with them for a kick to kick, so that I am part of a group that consists of: my father, who I have known all my life; my brother, who I have known all his life; two boys with whom I share no biological link other than mutual love; a daughter to a wife who is no longer alive and who shares no biological link to her older brothers; and a son I have with my wife, who shares only half his biology with both sister and brothers.
And not one of that group bothers with steps, or halves, or complications.
A MIND FOR ALL AGES
I cannot comment. All I can do is quote:
AIDEN TRIFFITT: I'm not telepathic, but I am tele-apathetic. I make other people stop caring...
THE HORIZONS EXPAND AGAIN
I've grown bored with my reading practices in recent days, and, what with being too skint to buy books, have decided to pull out some of the dust-collectors on my shelf and actually read those books I said I'd get around to reading one of these days. As much as possible, I'm steering away from the heavy SF/F feel that has dragged me down in recent days.
Started with Chuck Palahniuk's Lullaby. A safe bet: I generally enjoy Palahniuk, and he does things thematically and stylistically which we as genre writers consider ourselves dead clever for being the only ones to gte away with, whilst not falling under our banner, so it's nice to remind myself that such a trick can be done. I didn't think the book was his best, but still, it was a good way to get into a new swing, and enjoyable to read.
Second off the rank this week, Tom Robbins' Jitterbug Perfume. Gave up after 80 or so pages. Just can't bring myself to enjoy a writing style that considers itself clever for deliberately ignoring all the basics we consider indispensable to the craft, then makes sure to point out to the reader how they are being ignored.
As of yesterday, started in on Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds. And how engaging and delightful it is, brimful of characters and with a style and grace I haven't encountered for quite some time. Stephen Dedman's been recommending this book to me at regular intervals for a couple of years, and he's right so far.
Don't know what's nextr, but I'm not planning to buy much of anything at Conflux due to continuing skintness, so I think I'll be staying with my new reading habit for a while longer.
ALL TOGETHER NOW: AWWWWWWWWWWWW
Connor, because his reputation as cutest baby boy in the known universe isn't already complete, has started to say "Battersby". Just so's you know, the three most gorgeous syllables in the world are 'Ba-ah-peeeeee".
And when I put him down for his nap this afternoon, he looked up at me from the cot and said "Nigh nigh Da-dee".
I lost the power of my knees...
A BIG WEEKEND
So, speaking of Conflux, the programme has been released in something approximating its final form. Like all Cons, it's subject to last minute catastrophes and changes of plan, but you should expect to see me talking it up at the following times:
Friday, 2pm: Back to Basics: Cover Letters, Manuscripts, and Rejections. Active pros and semi–pros in writing, editing, and publishing talk about the dos and don'ts in submitting your stories. With: Lyn Battersby, Trudi Canavan, Cory Daniells
Saturday, 1pm: Choosing Your Monster. Which monsters are over-used? And which are still untapped resources of evil for your stories? Can we still get something new from werewolves and dragons, or have these been ‘done to death’? How do you go about building a new kind of monster? And is the worst kind of monster really the monsters we keep inside ourselves? With: David B. Coe, Stephen Dedman, Rjurik Davidson
Sunday 12pm: Book Launch Through Soft Air. With the fabulous Dave Luckett saying a few words in my defence.
Sunday 1pm: Writers and Illustrators of the Future. Initially established in 1983 by L. Ron Hubbard, the Writers of the Future Contest was aimed at discovering and then publishing deserving amateur and aspiring speculative fiction writers. Now one of the premier writing contests in the field, it has a record of bringing writers to the attention of publishers and helping launch their professional careers. Find out more about the contest from past winners, and its companion the Illustrators of the Future Contest, and how the contests provide a means for new writers and illustrators to make their mark. With: Sean Williams Cat Sparks, Richard Kerslake
Sunday 4pm: All Aliens, All the Time! Stories Without Homo Sapiens. Aliens, androids, and anthropomorphy: what's the appeal of stories without humans? What are the challenges for writers? How do you present a view that is both alien, and understandable? And how do you go about making analogies in an otherworldly world? With: Andrew Williams, Rjurik Davidson, Michelle Marquardt, Joan D. Vinge.
Monday 10am: Writing 101: What New Novelists Have Just Found Out and You Want to Know. You've written your book and now you've sold it—your problems are over, right? Er... These new novelists spill the beans and tell you how to prepare for a whole new world of pain (and pleasure). With: Katie Taylor T.J. Arryn, David Carroll.
Monday 2pm: Clarion South: Learn how to be a professional science fiction writer. The Clarion South Writers Workshop has been described as the most important opportunity for writers of science fiction and fantasy in the southern hemisphere. Aspiring writers of fantasy and science fiction learn from Australian and international pros in an intensive "hot-house" environment. Attend this panel to find out how to apply, how to get accepted, and how Clarion South wil change your life. With: Kate Eltham,Rjurik Davidson, Cat Sparks, Lily Chrywenstrom, Sean Williams
In addition, I shall be channeling the ghost of Martin Livings at the launch of his brillfabliest novel Carnies at 12pm on Saturday, following which I shall be accepting my dead chick (otherwise referred to as the Australian Shadows 2006 Award).
Luscious fetishists can see the object of their admiration at:
Friday 1pm: Ghosts in the Attic. The ghost story is a staple of the horror genre. What's its appeal? Which are the best early ghost stories? How has it evolved in the past hundred years? Who's writing the best ones now? With: Robert Hood, Leigh Blackmore, Ellen Datlow
Friday 4pm: Cross-Pollinating or contaminating? This panel discusses fiction that crosses genres - fantasy/romance, horror/mystery, science fiction/fantasy and more. When does it succeed? When does it fail? And what are some great examples of cross genre works? With: Ellen Datlow, Jack Dann, Simon Brown, Robert Stephenson
Sunday 1pm: Sci Fi Women: Where are They Now? How has Rose Tyler changed the role of the female companion in Doctor Who? Has the new Starbuck changed the possibilities for women on TV? How are other women treated in Battlestar Galactica? What about women in Farscape? Stargate? Firefly? Andromeda? Babylon 5? With: Jonathan Hardy, Zara Baxter
See you there, non?